What is Adaptive Bowling?

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Finding activities that both abled-bodied and disabled can enjoy together can be a challenge.  One activity that allows for true integration is adaptive bowling!  Adaptive bowling is the use of specialized equipment to allow those with physical disabilities to participate in the sport of bowling.  

Adaptive bowling originated in the 1940’s after World War II.  Many soldiers returned from war with various injuries and disabilities.  Adaptive bowling was a way to help them resume activity and socialization. Various equipment has been developed over the years to provide the enjoyment of bowling for all.

Equipment used for adaptive bowling varies based on the needs of the bowler.  A ball ramp is a very useful piece of equipment in adaptive bowling.  A ball ramp can be placed in front of a wheelchair and the bowler pushes the ball down the ramp and into the bowling alley!  Ball ramps are available at most bowling alleys.  However, if your local bowling alley does not have one, they are available on Amazon!   

Bowling balls with retractable handles are also useful in adaptive bowling.  Bowling balls with retractable handles allow individuals with poor finger control to still bowl!  The bowler can grasp the handle and when released the handle retracts into the ball!  This is a great alternative for aging bowlers!  Click here to find adaptive bowling balls.



A bowling ball pusher is another useful piece of equipment for adaptive bowling.  For wheelchair users with good arm strength, this would be a useful tool.  A bowling ball pusher would also be useful for anyone who has difficulty with arm or shoulder strength.  Bowling ball pushers can also be found on Amazon.

Bumpers in a bowling alley are not just for kids.  They can also be used as a part of adaptive bowling.  Always getting gutters and low scores can be frustrating and take the fun out of bowling.  When adaptive equipment is mastered then the bowler can “graduate” to a bumperless alley.  If bowling in a group, a bumper can be put up in one alley alongside of a regular alley.         

Adaptive bowling has been an activity I have participated in for years.  I am the only member of my family who is a wheelchair user.  Finding activities my entire family can enjoy and participate in was always a challenge.  Adaptive bowling was always an easy pick.  When I was younger most of my friends were abled bodied.  Adaptive bowling equipment allowed for fun nights out and even for birthday celebrations.

Bowling fun with the Birthday Girl!
Bowling fun with the Birthday Girl!

Speaking of birthday celebrations, I recently attended a birthday celebration at Dale’s Weston Lanes in Weston, WI.  I went with my friend and caregiver, Adam.  My mom and brother were also there! I have frequented Dales Weston Lanes quite a bit over the years with Adam.


We choose Dales Weston Lanes because of their accessibility friendliness.  They have adequate accessible parking and all the accessible equipment I need for an adaptive bowling venture.  However, there is a lip in the entrance that always poses a problem for me.  I need someone with Schwarzenegger strength to push me over the hump.  When it’s not crowded, it’s easy to get around as there are no tight corners or spaces. The bathrooms are unisex and very accessible with a large stall. The customer service desk could be a little lower as it’s difficult to make eye contact, but the staff is always very friendly and helpful. Dales Weston Lanes have 3 ball ramps for adaptive bowling.  This bowling alley has always been a real strike!


Doorway “lips” can be troublesome!

Adaptive bowling is an amazing opportunity for abled-bodied and disabled individuals to participate equally in a fun activity.  Socialization is so important for all individuals, especially children.  Bowling is a wonderful option for children’s birthday parties, so no child is left out or has to sit on the sidelines watching the fun.  Midnight bowling is a great time for teenagers and young adults and again allows for very important socialization.  Adaptive bowling is a year-round, inexpensive and fun activity for all! 


Until next time, keep rollin’ and keep smilin’!             

hoto Credit: Adam Little

eferences: http://atwiki.assistivetech.net/index.php/Adaptive_Bowling




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